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Signed Jon Webb Three-Page Letter to Walter Winchell with 1937 Dial Book Announcement

Signed Jon Webb Three-Page Letter to Walter Winchell with 1937 Dial Book Announcement

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This is a signed, three-page letter from Jon Edgar Webb to famed journalist Walter Winchell from Feb. 23, 1947. The letter comes with a one-page manuscript from Dial Press Books, announcing the publication of “The Glass House”, the working title at the time for what would become Webb’s novel, “Four Steps to the Wall.” For reasons Webb would explain to Winchell, the novel would be delayed due to required rewrites.

This is a classic example of Webb’s “starving artist” pleas through the years, detailing the desperate situation he and wife Louise found themselves in. This time from a “rooming-house in the Village” where he says they are about to get evicted and are surviving only on coffee and bread.

The reason behind their current state of affairs is revisions that are needed in order to get the novel published by Dial Press Books. The requested revisions already meant he would miss the Spring 1947 Dial release and must now stay in New York to complete the revisions for a Fall 1947 release. He says the manuscript was “too-honest” a book and that the recent “Hearst campaign against ‘indecency’ in literature”was also a factor in the delay.

But Webb wasn’t asking for a simple handout in his letter. Rather, he was asking if Winchell (or someone Winchell knew) would be interested in a portion of his royalties when the book was finally published (plus a percentage) in exchange for a loan to get him through the revisions. He included the Dial announcement as proof the book would be published, and Webb said he expected it to bring in thousands of dollars in royalties.

The Dial Announcement is included here, with the title at the time advertised as “THE GLASS HOUSE”. The eventual book, “Four Steps to the Wall,” came out in 1948 and would indeed do quite well. In 1953, it would also be published as a mass market paperback by Bantam Books. With interest in a screenplay, the Webbs traveled to Hollywood for a stay, but it’s a little unclear what came of the project.

For those not familiar with the Webbs, they were the founders of Loujon Press.  They were responsible for transforming Bukowski into an established writer, even if fame wouldn’t occur until years later. They published Bukowski’s first true books, “It Catches My Heart In Its Hands” (1963) and “Crucifix in a Deathhand” (1965). These books are true works of art in and of themselves. The detail, the printing methods, the craftsmanship, and the pure insanity it took to undertake these endeavors was as unparalleled then and as it is today.

They also published Outsider magazine, which became the standard for poetry journals at the time. No other publication attracted nearly the talent that appeared in its pages and the production value of the magazine itself was unrivaled. Bukowski appeared in all four issues, with a large collection of poems in Outsider 1 (1961) and as the named “Outside of the Year” in Outsider 3 (1963), featuring Bukowski on the cover and a large center section.

The letter is signed “Jon Edgar Webb” in pencil, perhaps reinforcing Webb’s story of being on the financial rocks, not even being able to afford an ink pen at that point.

Box 25

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